MAC: Mines and Communities

Ivanhoe - a knight in shining armour?

Published by MAC on 2016-05-30
Source: Statements (2016-05-25)

No way, say community representatives

The following is a set of statements focussing on the Canadian outfit Ivanhoe Mining, and its Ivanplats (Platreefs) project in South Africa.

Community representatives and activists, supported by South African and Canadian NGOs, have accused the company of condoning human rights abuses and illegal operations.

Ivanhoe has denied this (attacking key activists and support NGOs), leading to a counter-claim, which draws on the chequered past of company CEO Robert Friedland.

For previous article see: Robert Friedland's Mining Showdown in South Africa

Is Ivanhoe Mines Informing Shareholders of Ivanplats’ Real Risks, Liabilities, and Irregularities? 

Community representatives are asking Ivanhoe shareholders if they are prepared to condone the human rights abuses and illegal operations that they allege the company is responsible for in South Africa.

MiningWatch Canada press release

17 May 2016

Ottawa - Ahead of Ivanhoe Mines’ annual shareholders’ meeting tomorrow in Vancouver, community representatives and activists are asking if shareholders are prepared to condone the human rights abuses and illegal operations that they allege the company is responsible for as it pushes ahead with development of its Ivanplats (Platreefs) project in South Africa.

Community representatives from Mokopane, Limpopo Province, assert that the government has unlawfully granted the Canadian company permits for the relocation of hundreds of ancestral graves in an area excluded from its designated mining area. The community has protested to the government and the Canadian High Commission against the violation of graves and the lack of enforcement of laws and customary rules protecting them. Derrick Tsita, spokesperson for Mokopane Interested and Affected Communities Committee (MIACC) says, “The granting of these permits is a final insult to our human rights and our human dignity.” Community members were further outraged when they recently learned that Ivanplats has stocked its office in Mokopane with cheap coffins – normally used for paupers’ funerals – for use in these reburials.

The permits were issued despite Ivanplats not having obtained written consent from the community in terms of its customary and administrative practices, as recognised by the South African Constitution. Written consent is an express prerequisite under national legislation meant to provide communities the right to participate in decision-making processes in matters that directly affect them.

Community members who have spoken out about their concerns have faced violence, including the attempted assassination of community representatives Holly Maponya and Charlotte Chaba on April 18 of this year, and the May 9th assault of Nomsa Magongoa. All three have been actively asserting their customary rights to consent to development, and demanding compensation for lost livelihoods.

Mokopane community members protest at the Canadian High Commission, May, 2015. Nomsa Magongoa is kneeling at the front of the group.

Customary representative Aubrey Langa explains, “We believe that the attempted assassination of Mr. Maponya is linked to his and other community representatives’ successful derailing of Ivanplats’ efforts to get the mine site included in the approved mining rights area without fulfilling the legal prerequisites. Mr. Maponya and his Kopano Formation Committee have been a thorn in the side of Ivanplats. As an outspoken critic of the Ivanplats project, many members of Kopano believe that the plot to assassinate him was related to Ivanplats’ presence.”

Adds Langa, “It would be irresponsible to state that Ivanplats directly ordered the hit on Mr. Holly Maponya. What is sure, and we say this with confidence, is that corrupt elements believed to be acting in the interest of Ivanplats are directly involved.”

Further aggravating the situation, a protest march planned to coincide with Ivanhoe’s Annual General Meeting was frustrated by the refusal of the local authority, the Chief Magistrate of Mahwelereng, to grant a protest permit. Magistrates Charity Kekana and Solly Kekana had already shunted the protest application, leading to further concerns of complicity or even potential collusion. “Mrs. Charity Kekana is a common law wife of Chief L. V. Kekana, and Mr. Solly Kekana is an uncle of Mr. Sello Kekana, Senior Manager for Ivanplats,” points out Derrick Tsita. “Are we being intentionally and strategically prevented from obtaining the protest permit in time?”

Of central concern in this protest is that, contrary to its environmental permit, Ivanplats is blasting within a buffer zone of 500 metres meant to protect residential structures in the village of Kgobudi. Salome Mabate from Kgobudi commented, “I wish I could find a spokesperson to address the meeting and billionaire Mr. Robert Friedland directly about blasting activities that Ivanplats conducted in the dead of the night.”

Shimane Kekana, a member of the Kopano Formation Committee, adds, “Unmitigated impact of ancestral burial grounds and graves is another contentious issue with Friedland, where officials and politicians seem to consistently look the other way in response to complaints that Ivanplats is violating terms and conditions of its mining and environmental authorisations. Key to this is that Ivanplats is allowed to conduct mining operations on a site for which it does not have valid mining and environmental permits because these have been expressly excluded under the terms of these concessions.”

The construction site is excluded from the permitted mining right area because of residential structures within the buffer zone, and the presence of more than 150 graves within the site. As a matter of principle, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) is obliged to deny approvals at this site if there is a qualifying alternative site where heritage resources are not found. As a result, community representatives assert that SAHRA should not have allowed Ivanplats to construct a shaft where it is currently doing so. SAHRA is only a “commenting authority” regarding mining activities; state authorities regulating mining and environmental matters are obliged to take the lead in prosecuting abuses of laws that SAHRA administers. Community representatives also argue that it was premature for these departments to grant mining and environmental permits before SAHRA had made a decision to approve the site for mine development.

In response, the Canadian people and government must act to ensure justice for human rights abuses associated with Canadian companies operating abroad and that the rights and interests of vulnerable people be protected and promoted.

“Ivanplats’ shareholders should demand to be fully informed of the legal status of the company’s access and occupation of 430 hectares of land, its mining licence, and compliance with community land rights and customary law as enshrined in the South African constitution,” says Jamie Kneen for MiningWatch Canada.

For more information:
• Aubrey Langa +27 (060) 724 4955 or +27 (076) 158 4045
• Jamie Kneen +1 (613) 569-3439

See detailed allegations here: Department of Mineral Resources - Request for Investigation of Allegations of Impropriety


Ivanhoe Mines condemns promotion of false and dishonest claims by Mining Watch Canada

Ivanhoe Mines statement

19 May 2016

Ivanhoe Mines condemns in the strongest terms possible the attempt by Mining Watch Canada – and its dishonest associates in South Africa – to spread falsehoods about the Platreef mine development project in the South African province of Limpopo. The recycled and false allegations made by Mining Watch Canada are not new and have been previously rebutted by Ivanhoe Mines and its South African subsidiary Ivanplats. However, it is important to repeat the company’s position for the benefit of shareholders, the media and the public at large.

Ivanhoe Mines is disappointed, although not surprised, that Mining Watch Canada has chosen to act as a Canadian blinkered cheerleader for the falsehoods and misrepresentations that have been perpetuated, and violent acts that have been staged, by South African activist Aubrey Langa who has previously been convicted by South African courts of furnishing false information, robbery and attempted murder. Mr. Langa is recognized for waging what one prominent South African newspaper recently described as his “single-minded campaign” against the Platreef mine currently being developed by Ivanplats in Limpopo province.

Ivanplats is a South Africa-based subsidiary company that is 64%-owned by Ivanhoe Mines, 26%-owned by South African broad-based black economic empowerment partners – including 20% belonging to 20 local communities with a combined population of approximately 150,000, 3% in the hands of historically disadvantaged project employees and a further 3% held by local entrepreneurs. The final 10% is owned by a Japanese consortium.

One fact that speaks volumes about Mining Watch Canada’s conduct is that the anti-mining organization has never contacted senior representatives of Ivanhoe Mines or Ivanplats and sought to openly discuss any purported concerns. Instead, Mining Watch Canada chose to grandstand and seek to mislead shareholders, other stakeholders and the media by issuing a news release, riddled with false allegations, just hours before Ivanhoe Mines’ scheduled Annual General Meeting today in Vancouver. It is an irresponsible tactic that deserves condemnation and mocks Mining Watch’s pretence that it acts in the “public interest”. If Mining Watch had sought to discuss these wild allegations with Ivanhoe Mines or Ivanplats, it would have realized the deceptive nature of some of the people they seem to have partnered with.

Much of the Mining Watch May 18 news release is a recitation of false allegations and unsupported claims by Mr. Langa and his cohorts in their dishonest campaign against the development of the Platreef mine. The release even provides Mr. Langa’s telephone number as a recommended information source. Mr. Langa’s record, including his criminal convictions, is well known in South Africa but has been conveniently suppressed by Mining Watch. His conduct has been addressed in a number of previous statements by Ivanhoe Mines.

Ivanhoe Mines has always recognized that the ongoing support of neighbouring communities is essential to the success of our project on the Platreef. Ivanplats’ staff, over a period of more than 15 years, have established productive working relationships with residents and traditional leaders in the 20 communities that surround the site of the planned mine. Ivanplats always has done its utmost to ensure that its engagements with host communities and other stakeholders are conducted in a fair and transparent manner – and we will continue to do so in future.

Contrary to claims promoted by Mining Watch, Ivanplats has demonstrated the utmost respect for historical gravesites and has fully complied with all prescriptions laid down by the relevant authorities. Furthermore, Ivanplats did fence off the sites once the required permissions were obtained from next-of-kin; and the South African Heritage Resources Agency provided inputs during the Environmental Authorization application. In addition, no unauthorized blasting has been conducted at the mine development site. These are well-established matters of fact.

Ivanplats was granted a mining right, or licence, for Platreef by South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources on May 30, 2014, which took legal effect on November 4, 2014. The Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism issued an environmental authorization to Ivanplats on June 27, 2014, under terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998.

The consultation requirements for the approval of a mining right and an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment are very onerous. Ivanplats did consult extensively with the public and these licences were duly granted by two different government departments. Mr. Langa filed various appeals with different government bodies, including the Department of Mineral Resources. Following official reviews, none of Mr. Langa’s objections were upheld by the relevant authorities.

Mr. Langa’s egregious dishonesty in his attacks on the Platreef Project appears to have reached a new low with his exploitive claim of an association between the ongoing development of the project and the reported wounding of a purported community activist in an alleged firearm incident last month. As far as Ivanhoe Mines is aware, there is not a whit of evidence to support Mr. Langa’s malicious and defamatory allegations. We understand that local police are continuing their investigation of the reported firearm incident.

Almost one month ago, on April 22, the Bench Marks Foundation – a faith-based organization owned by the churches in South Africa – issued a news release that publicly apologized for having previously suggested that Ivanplats may have had some role in the activist’s injury.

The Bench Marks news release declared, in part, “We do not in any way suggest that the company (Ivanplats) was involved in the incidents” surrounding the reported shooting. The release added: “Any insinuation in earlier media releases is regretted and the Bench Marks Foundation apologizes for that.”

Ivanplats has earned, and respects, the support of the overwhelming majority of the residents of Mokopane. Critics of the company’s planned Platreef Mine constitute only a small group that consistently numbers no more than 100 people who stage organized protests. That group is led by individuals who have self-serving agendas and who do not have legitimate concerns relating to the community at large, nor do they have any significant support from the approximately 150,000 people who make up the host communities around the mine development project.

The Platreef mine never can be the sole answer to the socio-economic problems facing the communities of Mokopane, where poverty and unemployment pose huge challenges for all of the people in the area. However, we are confident that this multi-billion-rand development project not only will become a major mining operation but it also will contribute significantly to job creation, skills training and economic development opportunities, impacting positively on the lives of people living in Mokopane and area communities.

Rich People in Glass Houses…

Media statement by the Bench Marks Foundation

25 May 2016

Ivanhoe Mines’ recent media release published for the benefit of its shareholders, media and public at large, has stooped to a low level by singling out a community activist for the troubles it faces in the Limpopo area. The Bench Marks Foundation believes that only full transparency and accountability will serve as a basis for obtaining lasting peace and justice with and for the communities surrounding the mines. We therefore call on Ivanhoe Mines to urgently present to groups opposing their mining venture in Limpopo the following:

-       the Social and Labour Plans (SLPs) for its operations there;

-       water licenses to the concerned communities;

-       full environmental impact assessments;

-       the environmental management plan;

-       the community consent to relocate graves found within the contested site in accordance with customary law;

-       applications and the relocation plans for communities surrounding the development of a new shaft;

-       the application to amend the mining right; and

-       the agreements with the traditional authorities (local chief/s).

Instead of presenting these to the communities, Ivanhoe launched personal attacks on Mr. Aubrey Langa as well as on civil society groups in general and on Mining Watch Canada, in particular, last week. We are proud to have as a friend and ally Mining Watch Canada, whose credentials are impeccable in supporting the cause of disempowered mining communities in Canada and internationally.

With regard to Mr. Langa, Ivanhoe Mines’ media release said that “Aubrey Langa, who has previously been convicted by South African courts of furnishing false information, robbery and attempted murder.” Nowhere do they indicate that the attempted murder charge took place in the late 1970s in Apartheid South Africa. Nor do they state that this incident occurred while he was being escorted by the police and inside a police sedan vehicle. During this trip, he grabbed hold of the steering wheel, in what was considered a suicide attempt, to overturn the vehicle into the river. The same white policemen in the vehicle had tortured Mr Langa and sought to obtain information about the whereabouts of his twin brother, who was allegedly transporting ANC activists to Botswana. Mr. Langa at that time was a first year medical student and he took the rap for the car his brother used.

As to the false information charge that is alleged by the company; they did not state that this was for violations of the Traffic Act, and as to the robbery charge, Mr. Langa regards this as a foolish act on his part for which he spent six years in jail from 1985. During that time, he completed a BSc degree as well as a number of legal courses with a view of proceeding with LLB after completing the BSc degree. In 2005, Mr. Langa was recalled into the Langa Bakenberg Royal Family circle and given the responsibility for mining affairs within the Bakenberg tribe. He has carried out this duty since then and continues to do so. He has applied to have his records expunged - some 30 years after said events.         

About Robert Friedland

Today, we witness a man who is as powerful as he is unscrupulous. The reputable think-tank Institute for Security Studies reveals his connections with mercenary group, Executive Outcomes and his ventures in many countries such as Burma and Angola.

Friedland’s mining empire extends from Indonesia to Fiji to Zambia and, because of his interest in putting profits before people, many have considered him a high-risk mining opportunist who “...thrives in countries that have dodgy governments that are reputed to be corrupt.”[1]

Friedland’s brushes with the law began when he too was young, far greater in magnitude than any that Mr. Langa had, that impacted heavily on people, the environment and the community’s wellbeing. Mr. Langa’s errors and indiscretions as a young man are minute in comparison to that of the mining mogul.

Toxic Bob and the LSD: In 1969, Robert Friedland (“Toxic Bob”) was arrested for attempting to sell 8,000 “hits” of LSD to a narcotics agent in Portland, Maine. According to Pratap Chatterjee - Mercenary Armies and Mineral Wealth (Fall 1997)[2]-, Friedland ran an LSD smuggling business out of a college dormitory until he was busted by local undercover cops. Other reports confirm that the police confiscated an additional 16,000 hits from Friedland and his two partners, making it the largest drug bust in the state at the time.

John Capel, Executive Director of the Bench Marks Foundation speaking on behalf of his organization confirmed that many decades later, the “Friedland’s mines have left a litany of human, and plant destruction. Where he leads, community dislocations and expensive clean-ups are the order of the day.

“Our sister organizations have told us that, in the USA, the calamitous failure of the Summitville gold heap-leach project in Colorado, which was mal-constructed by his company Galactic Resources, resulted in heavy metal pollution from this mine. The remediation measures to contain the damage cost the American people well over $100 million”.

Friedland resigned all his positions at Galactic in 1990, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began building a criminal case against him and his fellow directors. In May 1996, trustees for the bankrupt Summitville mining company (a wholly owned subsidiary of Galactic) pleaded guilty to 40 felony counts, mostly related to unauthorized pollutant discharges at the Colorado mine. The trustees were hit with the maximum $20 million penalty. “This sets a tone that significant crimes were committed at the mine,” U.S. assistant attorney Ken Fimberg was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, Friedland escaped U.S. enforcement agents by moving both his assets and himself out of the United States.[3]

Capel is supported by numerous studies such as Grave Diggers: A Report on Mining in Burma, authored by mining expert Roger Moody and supported by Canadian civil society organizations, which document how people have been driven from their land to facilitate the expansion of the mine under Ivanhoe. This resulted in the dislocation of hundreds of villagers, whose property was confiscated without compensation.

International NGOs say that Friedland and the Burmese military junta were a marriage made in hell. He thus stands accused of contributing to untold environmental disasters as well as to mercenaries with a military junta that killed 10,000 people in 1988 (to crush a student uprising) that turned Burma into a vast slave labour camp, as well as the world’s leading heroin exporter.

For these violations of human rights, the United Nations found that torture, summary executions, slave labour, rape, forced displacement, and oppression of minorities were commonplace in Burma.

In Sierra Leone,[4] Friedland’s company Diamond Works, which owns two diamond mines, has been linked to the notorious South African mercenary group Executive Outcomes (EO), made up of apartheid-era military officers who specialize in assassination and disinformation.

Capel adds “We have noticed that in all the places where Friedland has operated he has endeared himself to the governments in power and/or the relatives of powerful politicians. We want to know who his backers in South Africa are that give him the temerity to ride rough-shod over the rights and aspirations of poor mine communities.”

The Bench Marks Foundation calls on the company, Ivanhoe, to publically express their outrage at the attempted assassination of community activists Holly Maponya and Charlotte Chaba, on April 18 of this year, as well as the May 9th assault of Nomsa Magongoa. All three have been actively asserting their customary rights to consent to development, and demanding compensation for lost livelihoods.

Bench Marks Foundation further calls on Ivanhoe to assist society, and in particular the police, by putting up as reward, a sum of R100 000 for anyone who can provide information that will lead to the arrest of those involved in the attempted murder of Mr. Maponya. Furthermore, Ivanhoe must assert publically that it will, from now on, abide by human and environmental rights – and respect the will of the people.

The Bench Marks Foundation is an organisation that monitors multinational corporations to ensure that they meet minimum social, environmental and economic standards and promotes an ethical and critical voice on what constitutes corporate social responsibility.

For more information on the Bench Marks Foundation, go to


Bench Marks Foundation is an independent non-governmental organisation mandated by churches to monitor the practices of multi-national corporations to

The Foundation was launched by the Rt Rev Dr Jo Seoka who chairs the organisation and by member churches of the SACC in 2001.

Bench Marks Foundation Contact:
Mr John Capel: Executive Director
011 832 1743 or 082 870 8861

Mr Hassan Lorgat: Works in Research, Advocacy and Strategy
082 362 6180

[1] See Chapter 5: Executive Outcomes – A corporate conquest Khareen Pech An old emperor in a new suit (page 12)
[2] See
[3] Moody, R, “The Mercenary Miner Robert Friedland Goes to Asia”
[4] Asad Ismi, 2001: “Toxic Bob” Wastes Burma Forced labour and pollution rampant at Canadian-owned mine

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